Words like ‘epochal’ get used lightly these days, for cricket and other diversions with only a fleeting effect on deep realities. But if there ever was consensus on the use of words to describe an epic event, on all sides of India’s many political divides, it emerged this week. Everyone shared one view: that historians looking back a century or two later would see May 23, 2019, as a day when history turned. In some ways, its import is deeper than May 16, 2014. That was a huge wave...they called it ‘Tsunamo’. But that was only 31 per cent. A word is waiting to be coined that can express something way bigger than that: a collective act, performed by almost 40 per cent of those who voted in this general election, across the country. PM Narendra Modi’s helmsmanship has been re-endorsed in a most emphatic way. History was not made without other things making way for it. Established political premises stood demolished. A caste coalition, crafted only for this battle and without any deeper mutual empathies, crumbled before a universalising, homogenising narrative, and a wall-to-wall BJP campaign covering the last mile. The miles left untouched will now exist as vulnerable zones: the BJP’s new chieftains, who have tasted the kind of success their progenitors perhaps didn’t envision, have promised to conquer all.
With this victory—which has the look of a tectonic plate shifting—Modi becomes the first non-Congress PM since Indira Gandhi to return to power for a full five-year term. He bucked anti-incumbency and came back with a far greater consensus. With his talismanic sway, the BJP has transcended caste, class and regional identity. Modi called it a mandate from ‘New India’ in his address to party workers on May 23 evening. His metaphors were also epic: 130 crore Indians “stood up for India”, he said, like Lord Krishna had stood up for Hastinapur in Mahabharata. Hundreds of cheering party workers stood around at the BJP headquarters, soaking in a late-evening drizzle and that epic mood, as Modi struck a compassionate, non-combative note, breaking from the acrimony of one of the longest campaigns ever. He pledged to run the nation by consensus and not act out of malice. “I promise not to do anything for myself,” he said. “And I promise every cell in my body is dedicated to the nation.” The chants of “Modi, Modi…” reverberated.